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New York Times explores blockchain for photo, news provenance in fake news battle

New York Times Newspaper

The New York Times (NYT) has built a blockchain prototype for The News Provenance Project to verify the source and edits of a photo. The media company has been exploring solutions to weed out fake news and misinformation, and last year announced it was working on a blockchain pilot with IBM Garage. 

Developers at IBM Garage built a solution that tracks a photo’s journey from capture by the photographer, through editing, to publication. This information is stored in the form of photo metadata on the blockchain and can be shared with network members. 

Here network members are (theoretical) news organizations and content or social media platforms where the photos might be published.

The blockchain system comprises a network model that enables authentication of users and gives permission to make changes to metadata, such as the event to which the photo relates. NYT and IBM also created a data model to define the information to be associated with an image. The data was mapped to IPTC photo metadata fields which are used to preserve copyright and licensing information. 

So, the blockchain records the original image, the subsequent changes made to it, and the identity of whoever made these changes. 

“When testing our prototype with users, we found that it effectively helped them make informed judgments about photos in a social media feed,” said NYT in a blog post. 

But it also encountered challenges. It isn’t that simple to validate changes such as adding event information; associating an image with its blockchain representation is not trivial; and blockchain needs to be accessible for news organizations.

The News Provenance Project is now moving towards an execution phase in 2020 to create an end-to-end solution for trusted news. The initiative is looking for collaborators to build standards, rating systems, and enable detection of misinformation. 

Earlier this year, Italy’s news agency ANSA said it worked with Ernst & Young to build a blockchain news tracking platform called ANSACheck that also aims to fight fake news. aims to authenticate corporate press releases and is being used by the likes of Orange.

In China, Baidu has launched PIC-CHAIN blockchain for image copyright protection. Sony has developed a rights management blockchain for written works.

Image Copyright: dennizn / BigStock Photo